Jesus said to the apostles, "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."
So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it. Mark 16:15-20
Today we celebrate the feast of Mark the Evangelist. He has been identified by some as John Mark the man who carried water to the house where the Last Supper took place or as the young man who ran away naked when Jesus was arrested.
The Coptic Church holds the tradition of identifying Mark the Evangelist with John Mark, and holds that he was one of the Seventy Disciples sent out by Christ, as is confirmed by the list of Hippolytus. It also believes that Mark the Evangelist is the one who hosted the disciples in his house after the death of Jesus, into whose house the resurrected Jesus Christ came, and into whose house the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples at Pentecost. Mark is also believed to be one of the servants at the Marriage at Cana who poured out the water that Jesus turned to wine. These traditions have no solid proof neither from the New Testament nor from Church history.
According to the Coptic church, Saint Mark was born in Cyrene, a city in the Pentapolis of North Africa (now Libya). This tradition adds that he returned to Pentapolis later in life, after being sent by Saint Paul to Colossae; these actually refer to Mark the Cousin of Barnabas), and serving with him in Rome; from Pentapolis he made his way to Alexandria. When Mark returned to Alexandria, the pagans of the city resented his efforts to turn the Alexandrians away from the worship of their traditional gods. In AD 68 they placed a rope around his neck and dragged him through the streets until he was dead.
As we celebrate this feast day, I am reminded of the symbols associated with Saint Mark, that of a lion. The Gospel of Mark is the first to be written, simply and with clarity, and his Gospel continues to bring us vivid pictures of the life of Christ. I am obviously partial to Mark, since I am married to a Mark, who like his name sake is both fearless and gentle, brave and kind, willing to be a servant and also a leader. He reported what he saw, a continues to inspire all of us to be simple, kind and honest with our work as evangelists.
Today I ask God to strengthen us all with simplicity, humility and candor in everything we do. May our lives tell the story of the love of God. May we not be shields or barriers to God's love but rather, like Mark, be willing to carry the good news to the ends of the earth. May we be humble enough to tell the story simply; may we always be welcoming and loving to those whom we fear; and may we, like Mark, be courageously willing to give our lives for the service of God and the love of others.
Almighty God, by the hand of Mark the evangelist you have given to your Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank you for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.